A variety of reasons motivate people in California to establish trusts. In order to operate, a trust must have a trustee. This individual or institution oversees asset management and distributions to beneficiaries. The position involves a great deal of legal responsibility. Shortcomings in a trustee’s performance or conflicts with beneficiaries could lead to cause to seek a trustee’s removal.
Court intervention necessary
A judge must approve your petition to remove a trustee. Your petition must convince the judge of the appropriateness of your request. Potentially acceptable reasons for a trustee’s removal include:
- Asset mismanagement
- Noncompliance with trust terms
- Hostility toward beneficiaries
Organizing evidence to support the petition
A judge looking at your petition for trustee removal will want to see documentation that proves allegations related to self-dealing or mismanagement. The same goes for noncompliance with trust terms. Various financial records and transaction statements may illustrate breach of fiduciary duty, neglect or incompetence.
For example, choices that result in personal gain for the trustee at the expense of the beneficiaries could prove self-dealing. However, neglect or incompetence might be shown by failures to create financial reports or halting communication with beneficiaries.
As for hostility toward beneficiaries, proving the poor relationship could require producing emails or text messages that contain angry exchanges. Witness testimony may be used as well.
Disagreements about distributions
You may choose to cite good cause as your reason if you disagree with how the trustee distributes trust funds. Good cause is a catchall category for anything that might arise, but your conflict must be rooted in something reasonable. You will bear the burden of convincing a judge that the trustee is acting unwisely.